My commute to the office includes crossing a pretty busy street at a corner with a turning lane. There’s a proper crosswalk complete with a huge flashing sign that states, “Yield to Peds” when those crossing get the WALK chirp (this area has many crossing signs that chirp for the visually impaired; it’s a rather endearing sound when you live with so many cars around you.) I tell you all this because without fail, at least once a week, someone feels the urge to run the red, either forcing me to stop walking or leaving me shaken at the prospect of using my health insurance to its fullest. But here’s the real kicker; that person will run the red, swerve to avoid me and then just a mere 20 feet down the road get slammed by a red light and backed up traffic!
We are, by and large, a group of people who seek to rush; get here, there and everywhere, get things done, move to the next item on our to do list. We have the capacity to be on the phone around the clock or in nearly any location, we have watches which deliver not only the time but our next to do item or the ‘could you please bring home the milk’ message, we order our groceries over the internet if we choose. Many people who think they are headed toward Thriving are really headed in the direction of a heart attack or stroke!
Stephen Cole of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School did an interesting study looking at, “Time urgency and risk of non-fatal myocardial infarction” which was published in the May 24, 2000 edition of Epidemiology. Non-fatal myocardial infarctions are heart attacks that don’t kill you. Time urgency refers to the not so new observation that many people are hurrying up to do the next thing, always feeling a sense of pressure around their time. Here’s the scary take away message from Dr. Cole, “an insistent sense of time urgency and impatience are associated with a “significant” increased risk of coronary heart disease.” Did that slow you down a bit?
Joe Robinson, an author and stress management coach, puts the problem well, “Constant hurry-worry mode equates commotion with motion, busy-ness with productivity, hyperventilation with importance. The reality, though, is that time urgency is false urgency. Time urgency fuels rushing, and rushing fuels stress. This is the loop we get caught up in at work, and that we take home with us.”
For sure there are times when we are in a rush, when the situation does require us to move with more focus and speed. Getting to work in heavy traffic is likely not that situation. There are times when it does not pay to move so fast that when you arrive at the situation you need to take some time to gather yourself for that emergency or presentation or conference call. Think about the traffic ticket one gets for speeding and then the time it sets you even further back! Remember, the cop is already on the clock and getting paid for their time.
What to do about it? Start by becoming aware of it. Begin to ask yourself if there is something to be rushing for or is that just you. Begin to get more realistic about what you can and perhaps can’t get done in any time period. Plan for most things to take longer than you expect. Be ready for some pieces to hold over until another time. Slow down! Take off your watch or put your phone away so that you’re not constantly checking it. Put your silverware down between bites of food to actually taste your meal. Walk with thought and mindfulness. Don’t push ahead in a line or make sigh loudly when the person ahead of you on the line takes their time. Breathe.
One more question for you today (or two)? Did you read this piece so quickly you can’t actually tell someone what’s in it? Would you mind terribly re-reading it if you did? Thank you! Thriving, flourishing and being in the moment require us to be. Just be…and from there we can build practices which will, in turn, allow us to thrive, flourish and experience. Funny how those pieces all work together!